How to Clean Brushes with Mineral Spirits

Clean-up is easy when you’re painting with water-based paint such as latex or chalk paint. You can conveniently wash off any remaining paint on your paintbrush with only water and soap. It’s one of the great qualities of water-based paint.

With oil-based paint though, clean-up isn’t as convenient. You need more than just soap and water. Paint thinner or mineral spirits is necessary to thoroughly clean off oil-based paint or primer.

Fortunately, cleaning your brush with mineral spirits isn’t that hard once you get the hang of it.

In this post, you’ll learn how to clean brushes with mineral spirits.


Mineral spirits is a petroleum-based solvent that’s commonly used to clean off oil-based paint or primer in paintbrushes. It’s also useful for cleaning grime, grease, stains, gunk, and sticky residues. And the great thing about it is any used mineral spirits can be reused indefinitely.

What are Mineral Spirits? 

Mineral spirits, also known as mineral turpentine or white spirits, is a petroleum-based solvent commonly used to thin paints, varnishes, and adhesives. Often, people confuse mineral spirits with paint thinners (they’re both petroleum-based). However, mineral spirits are more refined than paint thinner and release fewer VOCs.

Since mineral spirits are so refined, they are typically pricier than paint thinner (usually 50% more expensive). Odorless mineral spirits are even more processed and pricier than regular mineral spirits as a result. The higher price tag is worth it for many DIYers because regular mineral spirits release a much more pungent, chemical smell that’s extremely unpleasant for many.

Mineral spirits are used for a variety of purposes including:

  • Cleaning paintbrushes coated with oil-based paint or prime
  • Thinning oil-based paint
  • Degreasing gunk, grime, grease, stains, and sticky residues

You can also use mineral spirits to prep a surface before painting

Note that while mineral spirits is relatively less toxic than most other solvents, it’s still important to be careful when working with it. For example, you should only use it in well-ventilated areas, do not ingest or inhale its fumes, and always wear protective gear (e.g. rubber gloves, respirator mask, goggles) when using it.

Related: How to Keep Paint Brushes From Drying Out

Cleaning Paint Brushes With Mineral Spirits: 7 Steps

When working with solvents such as mineral spirits, it’s important to take the proper safety precautions. Open any windows or doors that can let air flow freely in your work area. Without proper ventilation, the strong odor emitted by mineral spirits can be quite unpleasant (even odorless mineral spirits can have a strong smell to many). 

Since mineral spirits can be harmful to your skin, wear rubber safety gloves. As an extra precaution, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes. Additionally, a respirator can help to mute the strong odor of mineral spirits. 

Lastly, mineral spirits are flammable, so don’t use them near water heaters, stoves, lit cigarettes, or any device that can produce an open flame.

Tools and Supplies

  • Mineral spirits (ideally odorless mineral spirits- available here on Amazon)
  • Container for mineral spirits (e.g. glass jar, metal can)
  • Paintbrush
  • Rag or paper towels
  • (Optional) Paintbrush spinner
  • (Optional) Paintbrush comb
  • Dish soap and water
  • Bucket or pale
  • Heavy paper and a string or rubber band

Step 1. Remove excess paint from your paintbrush

Before you begin cleaning your paintbrush, scrape your brush against the edge of a paint can to remove as much excess paint as possible. You may also scrape your brush against a disposable surface (like scrap cardboard) if you don’t plan to reuse the excess paint.

If you have a paintbrush comb, you can use it to remove excess paint. Comb the bristles from the base to the top to avoid bending and damaging the bristles.

Step 2. Pour mineral spirits into a container

In a metal can or glass jar, pour enough mineral spirits to completely submerge the bristles of your paintbrush.

You should use a can or jar that is deep and wide enough to fit the entire head of your paintbrush.  

Step 3. Dip your paintbrush into the container with the mineral spirits

Submerge your paintbrush into the container until all its bristles are fully submerged in the mineral spirits. Swirl or stir the brush to loosen any paint trapped in the brush. Pressing the brush against the sides of the container can help to free up any paint stuck in the brush. 

If the paint on your brush has dried and hardened, let the brush sit in the mineral spirits for a few hours before swirling and stirring it to free up any excess paint.

Continue to shift your paint brush around until you feel that most of the paint has broken down in the mineral spirits. 

Step 4. Clean your paintbrush with soap and water

Once you have removed all the paint from your brush, wash your brush with dish soap and water to remove any remaining mineral spirits residue.

Step 5. Dry your paintbrush

Dry your paintbrush by lightly wiping it along a clean rag or towel. To store your paint brush, wrap it with heavy construction paper and secure the construction paper on the brush with a rubber band or string. Doing this will help retain the shape of your paintbrush.

What to do with Mineral Spirits After Cleaning your Brush 

After you’re done cleaning, don’t throw away your used mineral spirits. You can still reuse it for future cleaning. Transfer any remaining used mineral spirits into a clean container such as a glass jar. After a few hours, the paint will sink to the bottom of the jar. From here you can pour the pure mineral spirits that separated from the paint into a separate jar. Stash this jar of used mineral spirits away for whenever you need to use it next.

However, simply waiting for the mineral spirits to separate from the paint bits will take a long time. If you want to reuse your used mineral spirits sooner, you can speed up the process by filtering the used mineral spirits. Simply pour the mineral spirits through a coffee filter into another jar or metal can to separate the mineral spirits from the remnants of paint. 



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